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Alexandra Messervy founded The English Manner in 2001 after a career working in the Master of the Household’s department for the Royal Household of Queen Elizabeth II.

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23 October 2023


A good guest knows when to leave!

Joking aside, and starting at the beginning, good manners begin well in advance of your stay.  As soon as you receive an invitation to stay in someone’s home or as their houseguest in another location, ascertain your expected time of arrival and make sure you know when they wish you to depart.  You know the old saying, ‘guests are like fish, they go off after three days’!

Dietary requirements

Ensure your host knows any dietary hates or allergies so they are not caught unawares, and if you are allergic, for instance, to feathers, make sure they have hypoallergenic bedding or check that you can take your own.

Don’t arrive empty-handed

Always take a good gift, if you want to display good houseguest etiquette.

Think about the host and the venue and for overnight stays always err on the generous side – think about the cost of entertaining you and either pick something practical or entirely frivolous.  Don’t take wine unless it is Champagne (and never cold) as you are otherwise unwittingly suggesting their wine is not good enough for you to drink.  Chocolates are always in favour, but only if in an extravagant box to add a touch of luxury to any proceedings.

For the ‘hostess with the mostest’, then something fun; an opulent large scented candle or beautiful expensive potted orchid, or a rose to be planted in the garden related to your host’s name or favourite colours perhaps.

Don’t hound your hosts

On arrival, ensure you make yourself scarce before dinner to unpack, give your hosts breathing space; and always offer to help.  It will probably be rebuffed, but the offer should nevertheless be genuinely made.


If you are taking your offspring, it is your responsibility to make sure they behave impeccably and are entertained and occupied throughout.

Guesting at Christmas

We are approaching holiday time, and if the house party is for Christmas, then make sure you discreetly ascertain the guest list so you can take some small gifts for others you may know to be joining you.  At Christmas, an offer of culinary contributions is acceptable – a large wheel of cheese, for instance, or if you are a dab hand in the kitchen, then a homemade Christmas pudding, cake or mince pies.

Always write!

Whatever the occasion or time of year, a handwritten thank you is a must for houseguest etiquette, and possibly send flowers, after your return home.  

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